Why “Mary Poppins Returns” Looks Like A Dystopian Nightmare

Matthew Loffhagen
Disney
(Photo: Disney)

The first trailer for “Mary Poppins Returns” has arrived, and considering that this is a sequel to one of the most beloved children’s movies of all times, things look strangely bleak.

There’s the Banks’ old family home, lit in a dark and moody manner, as big storm clouds cast grey shadows over the entire street.

There’s the beloved kite from the first movie, lying abandoned in a trash can before the wind steals it away.

There’s a child, running through a field after the kite, swallowed up by dark, thick bushes at the edge of a park.

Why does this movie look so grimdark? Is this actually a gritty reboot of “Mary Poppins,” complete with “Power Rangers” levels of angst and weather-related pathetic fallacy?

If this is a “Mary Poppins” film, why does the trailer make it look like a dystopian nightmare?

Well, that’s because, to a certain extent, this movie is a dystopian nightmare.

“Mary Poppins Returns” is the logical extension of the first movie in the series. Originally, the Banks family was enjoying a life of luxury in Edwardian London; Mr. Banks had a high-paying job in finance, Mrs. Banks was a suffragette, and Jane and Michael were looking forward to a life of wealth and prosperity, free from any hardship whatsoever.

Then, the Great Depression started. You can probably see where this is going.

Apparently, “Mary Poppins Returns” is a film set in the midst of economic downturn, as Michael Banks, now played by Q from the latest “James Bond” movies, struggles to keep his family afloat while maintaining a sense of childish wonder and optimism.

This is certainly not going to be the same kind of frivolous family fun as the first movie — there’s going to be darkness in this film that far outstrips the occasional sad moment from the first “Mary Poppins.”

Obviously, this is also a very deliberately topical movie. While the banking crisis is now 10 years old, plenty of households remain trapped by low wages and high costs, as they wobble back and forth over the poverty line.

Mary Poppins
Source: Disney

Around the world, the effects of greedy, irresponsible bankers is still keenly felt, and it’s interesting that the new “Mary Poppins” is going to address this by showing the real-world consequences of the Banks family’s life of excess from the first movie.

At the same time, this will probably be a movie that attempts to soften the Great Depression somewhat, and, by association, the recession caused in the wake of the 2008 banking collapse. We’ll be told that joy can be found even in the darker moments, and that those who are worried about money should relax and be happy with what they’ve got.

How well this message is conveyed remains to be seen — it could feel cathartic for audiences, or it could feel a little patronizing considering that it’s coming from the Walt Disney Corporation’s family-friendly mouthpiece.

How the film will play out remains to be seen, just don’t be surprised if this movie ends up getting a bit dark.

Of course, there still remains one big question that needs to be answered.

Will Lin-Manuel Miranda attempt to copy Dick Van Dyke’s atrocious cockney accent?

We can only hope that he will.